From the HBD Archive
From: hplabs!garth!phipps (Clay Phipps)
Subject: Re, more-or-less: Too-Sweet Steam
Date: 1990-04-17 04:17:46 GMT

References: <HOMEBREW Digest #398, 04/13/90>

"JEFF CASEY / (617)253-0885" <CASEY@NERUS.PFC.MIT.EDU> wrote:

>Bill Pemberton says:
>>It seems (to me at least) that most of the brews I have made have been a
>>touch too sweet for my liking. .... I have used several different yeasts...
>One real problem I found is that crystal malt smells and tastes so good
>(while brewing) that it is a real test of your self control and
>determination to add in only the required amount and no more.

With neoprohibitionists having the potential for seriously negative
impacts on the enjoyment of brewing, I refuse to exercise "self control"
when deciding how much crystal malt to add to my brews.

>One of my best red bitters had none of my "trademark" sweetness,
>although I'd used the recipe before -- when I checked my notes,
>I had run out of crystal, and had only been able to add in what was
>necessary, not tip in a little more "for grins".

Try using 2 wrongs to make a right: add more hops to balance your
crystal "for grins" malt. 2 lbs. of 40L crystal is in my current batch.
My amberish brews without crystal malt (when I've already started the
brew-pot and I realize I'm out of the stuff) seem awfully watery nowadays,
but you should, of course, brew to *your* taste, not mine.

>if you are an extract brewer, stick to the pale extracts
>and modify them with your own specialty grains for darker brews.

>The amber and dark extracts often have other sugars or caramel added [...]

I agree with the recommendation to use light extracts as a base.
I just can't see making the effort to finesse amounts of the dark grains
in a brew, when I don't know the composition of the dark grains
in the extract. Yes, I'm certain that there are unknowns in the light
extracts, but I assume that there must be far fewer unknowns in them.

>Yeasts: if you are using an unattenuative yeast, there will be more
>unfermentables left over, and the brew will be sweeter.

"William F. Pemberton" <> wrote more:
>Several people have written me in regard to my problem with too sweet beer.
>I didn't post any recipes, but one reason is that
>I have used several different ones, but here is a typical example:
> 0.5 lb. Crystal Malt
> 1 can Unhoped Amber Extract
> 1 can Unhoped Light Extract
> 1.5 oz Northern Brewer's Hops (for boil)
> 0.25 oz Cascade Hops (for finish)
> Whitbread Ale Yeast
>[...] it was just too sweet for my likings.
>My current mutation of the above recipe uses a lager yeast
>instead of an ale yeast (making a steam beer).

The recipe for Anchor Steam provided by a now-defunct homebrew store
used 2 oz. of Northern (alpha: ~10%?) for boiling. If your hops had
suffered in storage, you might have gotten the effect of one oz. or less:
only half of the hops bitterness called for in the recipe (25% low relative
to recipe, compounded by ~40% loss in storage (see someone else's posting)).
I could imagine that a beer too sweet for your tastes resulted.
I once put 3 oz. or so of Chinook (alpha: 13%) in a recipe by mistake.
The result was quite hoppy and quite drinkable, but not for everybody.

>I had hoped that the yeast was the culprit and
>the use of a lager yeast would do the trick.

Your history with yeasts is backwards from mine.
Switching from lager yeast to ale yeast in the heat of summer definitely
changed the taste of my Steam-alike recipe, but it wasn't in sweetness.
I haven't experimented in any serious way with yeasts, but attenuation
(See Casey, above) might be a factor.

>The two brands of extract that I use are John Bull and Munton & Fison.

Try using 2 cans of the light extract, and forget the "amber" stuff.

>I've tried several variations off of this, and all have worked well,
>but still too sweet (for me). Several people on the net (thanks to all)
>suggested cutting back on the Crystal Malt.
>I think I will try a version with that eliminated.

No! Anything but that! Crystal-maltiness is next to godliness. :-)
I suppose it could be regarded as use of the scientific method, though.

So now you have plenty of excuses to brew: applying the scientific method
to canned mystery extracts, hop freshness, yeast attenuation, and crystal
malts (don't forget to try a complete assortment of Lovibond ratings :-).

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